MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — At the end of the Spring 2017 semester West Virginia University’s Arnold Hall and Apartments will close for good.
“The current thought of management is that at some point in time it will be razed and not repurposed. And, it will either be green space or something alternative,” predicted Rob Alsop, WVU vice president for legal, government and entrepreneurial engagement. “Given the deferred maintenance challenges, I don’t think there’s an intent to rehab and use it as it is currently situated.”
The university’s Board of Governors voted Friday to close Arnold Hall and Apartments, use a portion of University Place, a public-private partnership development, as residence halls and amend a lease and development agreement with Paradigm Development Group, the developer that constructed University Place.
The 10:30 a.m. BOG meeting was mostly a presentation by Alsop to the board members and university leaders. It included a number of details about money lost on the development and trouble with filling vacancies.
“One of the things we’ve heard is complaints about it. One of the things we wanted to do as we made this pivot and move forward is just get it out on the table and talk about it,” Alsop clarified.
University Place exceeded budget estimates and did not open on time. Students who were supposed to live there had to be accommodated with other means of housing. Occupancy at the student housing development dropped 64 percent to 46 percent from last year to this year.
“And, so as President (Gordon Gee) said instead of focusing on the challenges, we’re talking about the opportunity and moving forward. There is no question, as you could tell from the presentation there was a deeper dive into some of those challenges. We are addressing those head on and moving on, I think, in a positive fashion,” Alsop told reporters following the vote.
The university presented numbers that 100% of the north tower of University Place is expected to be leased for next year.
Meanwhile, the south tower will become Seneca Hall.
“I think if you look at the overall metrics of University Place and what it’s done to transform Sunnyside, what it’s done to transform the student experience from there are really positive. Not every project finishes on time and on budget and this one didn’t,” added Alsop.
WVU, according to a term sheet with Paradigm, will place at least 450 beds in the south tower of University Place.
Among those terms, WVU will recoup money from collecting management fees.
Also, the original agreement over split revenue will change. WVU will receive 85 percent of the net revenue until June 30, 2025. Previously, the rate was 69% during the first 10 years of the public-private partnership. After ten years, the agreement has gone from WVU receiving 49 percent to 55 percent of net revenues.
Cost per bed in Seneca Hall will be the most expensive offered by the university at $4,100.
Arnold Hall houses freshmen. According to Alsop, students will not be required to choose Seneca Hall for housing.
Boreman, Dadisman and Towers offer the least expensive housing option with rates at $2, 606 per bed.
Previous discussion of Towers potentially closing has seemingly been put on the back burner.
“We always new Arnold would have to be rehabbed or taken off line. As we looked at the changed circumstances over the past four years it was just a different change of priorities. I think that’s really why it was bumped up ahead of towers,” explained Alsop.
Arnold Hall was constructed in 1957. Alsop said in 2012 a university housing plan estimated $11,129,000 deferred maintenance costs at dorms alone and $10,317,000 at the apartments.
Alsop confirmed Arnold Hall employees will not lose their jobs. Although, they have requested to be placed elsewhere as a group.
The developer, according to WVU, owes the university $900,000. Under the new terms, the developer will “lose the right to all receivables” until WVU has been paid in full.
However, Alsop defended WVU’s support and participation in public-private partnerships.
“We want to continue to do public-private partnerships. We want to continue to modernize and upgrade our housing. So, I would expect in the coming months and years you’ll hear us continue to talk about the upgrades we want to do for our student housing.”
The resolution adopted by the Board says, in part: “Closing Arnold Hall and Apartments and converting portions of University Place into a residence hall will provide updated, modern and attractive amenities to recruit and retain students, solve financial and occupancy challenges at University Place and avoid deferred maintenance expenses for Arnold Hall and Apartments.”